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The Boxer by Piper Rayne

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 7th March 2017
The Boxer by Piper RayneThe Boxer by Piper Rayne
Series: Modern Love #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on March 1st 2017
Pages: 199
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three-stars

What does a girl do after she discovers her fiancé is a cheating bastard?

In my case, I performed the ritual implosion of all scorned women. I drowned my sorrows in cases of white wine, wallowed in gallons of ice cream, and ignited a bonfire to burn away every damn remnant of his existence. Six months later, the only result was a permanent impression of my ass on the couch.

Adventure Dating my friends dared.
A new and exciting opportunity they said.

I thought they were crazy, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so I signed up for the entire four-week deal.
That’s where I saw HIM. Lucas Cummings. He isn’t the classic rich boy I usually end up with. The one whose idea of working up a sweat is waiting for his margarita to be served beachside. Nope. He’s a rough and tough bad boy that all fathers warn their daughters about. You know the type. Cocky swagger, chiseled jaw—the ‘V’.

SOLD, I said to myself, until I discovered he was so much more than just a BOXER.

Left Hook.
Right to the heart.

Prim girl meets supposed bad boy at a boxing ring, bets on him inadvertently and get her knickers wet, but one embarrassment after another follows and the promise of a sultry night to come screeches prematurely to a halt. Well, there’s a little more than that of course, as ‘class conflict’ and shades of infidelity and deception are written into the plot…and who the rough-and-tumble boxer really is, isn’t quite who we can expect.

I’m not entirely too sure how to rate my first ever read by Piper Rayne, to be honest. As a story written solely in Tahlia’s POV, I felt as though this became a case of a completely unveiled heroine – we know her flaws, her insecurities and her hopes – but almost nothing about Lucas Cummings, except for the bare facts that he lets her know about him, as revealed to us by the authors. That Lucas remains tight-lipped about what he does and who he really is didn’t make him a character that I could understand, let alone connect with. Eventually, it all comes to a head, forming the bulk of the conflict, yet I couldn’t shrug away the dissatisfied feel when Lucas seemed to stay an enigma who was content to dole out only the pieces of himself that he wanted people to know.

I personally prefer both the H/hr to be stripped bare – not just physically and not only at the end of the book – so this was a story that left me somewhat frustrated and sitting on the fence. With their emotional connection and compatibility overshadowed by their physical chemistry (this is way too common these days), I turned the last page actually wondering whether Lucas/Tahlia would actually be a couple who could even last beyond the HFN that Rayne gives us.

three-stars

Down and Dirty by Tracy Wolff

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Sports 5th March 2017
Down and Dirty by Tracy WolffDown & Dirty by Tracy Wolff
Published by Loveswept on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 210
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two-stars

Emerson: Talk about bad first impressions. I have too much riding on this job to show up late on my first day looking like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest, all thanks to an arrogant quarterback who drives like he owns the road. Hunter Browning thinks that because he’s famous, he can fix everything with a smile and a wave of his hand. He’s too bronzed, buff, and beautiful for his own good. Or mine. I can’t let on that I’m a fan . . . no matter how much fun we’d have in the sack.

Hunter: Hitting that puddle was my best play since winning the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass. Sure, it’s not my preferred way to get a girl wet, but I’ll make an exception for Emerson Day. She’s got a sharp tongue and a red-hot temper, even with her soaking clothes plastered to her every curve. Now I know exactly what my next play will be: hire Emerson as my personal real-estate agent, save her job—and see if I can take her off the market.

Tracy Wolff certainly has a way of writing steamy scene after steamy scene, though quite a bit of the book reads like a porn movie set, where characters meet perfunctorily and get hit hard by lust. Resistance (there’s a little of it), of course, is futile when constant penile erections and hardened nipples and wet slits suddenly take over.

The physical aspect of ‘Down and Dirty’ was never in doubt when Hunter zeroed straight in—from the very first meeting—like a panting dog in heat on Emerson, as I wondered if this book could better be classified as erotica than contemporary chick-lit. But I lost count of the number of ways he imagined her in all the sex positions, her lips doing dirty things to him and so on, up until the point where I finally decided that Hunter was a bad bet all around, led around mostly by his dick (and posturing a lot with it too), with copious amounts of dirty descriptions dedicated to how much he liked Emerson’s sexy body. And because Emerson is more special than his numerous one-night hookups, he has to relearn how to ‘woo’ a woman, which in his book, means loading her with lavish gifts that his wealth affords him.

Apart from Hunter’s concern for his ailing sister, I was inclined to think he was generally a classless act with mood swings and obscene excess (as is typically written of the lifestyle of the superrich), crude but bland, yet cockily arrogant with very little character depth. His rationale for only having hookups was that his mind was already full with his family problems, yet there was no issue diving into this routine with Emerson when it suited him. When things took a turn for the worse, he pushed her away in the nastiest way possible, unable to deal with the overwhelming emotions—all typical alpha male behaviour that still surprises me with its stupidity at times.

And while Wolff certainly portrays the grieving process well, I couldn’t get over his callous treatment of Emerson, almost as though grief gave him license to be an idiot around others. I didn’t think very much of Hunter at all at the end as a result, especially since it felt as though he merely used Emerson as a bandage slapped over wounds, or that he was with her in a bid to keep a part of his life from spinning out of control.

Emerson fared somewhat better in my opinion, standing her ground against him, though you do know her issues will crumble under Hunter’s oh-so-experienced, superior touch. From there (and it’s just a week!), the falling in love bit came easily…perhaps too easily for me. She’s nevertheless, somewhat more multifaceted, with deeper perspectives and an more unshakeable sense of compassion than Hunter’s tunnel vision on women, football and his sister, which made me wonder just how much he really deserved her.

I tried to enjoy this, I really did. I did like how the introduction of an dying sibling gave the story more gravitas than a contemporary romance would have, though I’m not quite convinced yet that it’d helped shaped the pairing out to be a more solid and believable one that successfully weathered a storm together, because they didn’t quite do so. So unfortunately it didn’t quite work for me as I prefer my stories with a bit more narrative and character depth. But if getting hot and bothered is your primary goal, then ‘Down and Dirty’ would be it.

two-stars

Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Sports 1st March 2017
Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance AnthologyHot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology by Avery Flynn, Robin Covington, Kimberly Kincaid, Nana Malone, Virginia Nelson, Xio Axelrod, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Kim Golden, Lena Hart, Desiree Holt, Robin Kaye, Katie Kenyhercz, Heather Long, Kate Meader, Angi Morgan, Susan Scott Shelley, Misty D. Waters
Series: Chicago Rebels #0.5
Published by Avery Flynn on March 21st 2017
Pages: 1800
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three-stars

Get ready to fall in love with the smokin’ hot hockey players of the New Orleans Cajun Rage. After this season’s Cinderella run all the way to the Finals, these heroes have won the Cup—and now your heart is the goal.

‘Hot on Ice’ follows every single team member of the fictional New Orleans Cajun Rage after they’ve won the coveted cup and how the cup, like some magical catalyst, helps bring them get to their HEA that some feel (rightly so, to be honest) they don’t deserve. By the end of the book, I found it somewhat amusing that entire hockey team has found love, as though the cup has helped guaranteed success in their love lives as well.

Like every anthology, the quality of writing varies quite significantly and it can be quite an experience sorting through all of them, like finding gems in a huge haystack. There were some stories that I enjoyed (and found believable) more than others because of the stylish and more sophisticated way of writing, as well as how well some authors handled the typical romance tropes in them. Some others, well…I did find them cringeworthy.

The ARC I received felt like it was in its ‘developmental’ stage though; the formatting didn’t always work in my laptop or my e-reader (I don’t use a Kindle, maybe that’s why) for several chapters and there is still some editing work (grammar/spelling, for instance) that needs to be done to make the final version a more polished one.

*ARC kindly given by the authors
(always grateful, mind)

three-stars

The Cad and the Co-ed by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 16th February 2017
The Cad and the Co-ed by L.H. Cosway and Penny ReidThe Cad and the Co-Ed by L.H. Cosway, Penny Reid
Series: Rugby #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 12th 2017
Pages: 337
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five-stars

THE CADBryan Leech is a cad. Or, he *was* a cad.No one is quite certain.Once the quintessential playboy, Bryan claims he’s done with wild parties and weekend benders. No more one night stands leading to mornings he can’t remember; no more binges and blackouts; no more exploits plastered all over the tabloids and rag sheets. According to Bryan, he’s cleaning up his act.The only problem is, no one believes him.

THE CO-EDEilish Cassidy never thought she’d be a mother at nineteen or still in college at twenty-four. Cut off from every member of her family except her favorite cousin, she’s finally managed to put her life back together. Stronger and wiser, Eilish enters her last semester of university determined to stand on her own. Now she just needs to find an internship.The only problem is, her best option—by far—places her directly in the path of her son’s father, and he doesn’t remember her at all.

THE PLANBryan is determined to prove he’s changed. Eager to settle down with the right woman, he’s got his sights set on the gorgeous redhead who seems terribly familiar.Eilish is determined to hide her secret. She’ll do anything to keep her child safe, even if that means ignoring her own wishes and desires.But what happens when Bryan starts to remember? And what will it take for Bryan to convince the girl he forgot that she’s unforgettable?

A one-night stand goes awry as the cad takes it up with the co-ed and forgets it soon after, thanks to the constant drunkenness that pretty much blots out his short-term memory for eternity. Five years later, the cad has become the old codger who rails at loud parties disturbing his rest (complete with the housecoat, reading glasses, a mug of mint tea and a book about birds in Britain and Europe) and is so desperately reformed that I couldn’t help but find the whole turnover hilarious.

“The Cad and the Co-Ed” is as endearing as the preceding book and a pretty much angst-free read to boot, only that it takes place quite some time in the future after Sean’s story. The characters are likeable and so real as they pretty much act like the adults I expected them to be; I loved Eilish from the start and the honesty and maturity that she shows throughout the book by not shying away from the difficult decisions, just as I found Bryan’s entire personality change, well, rather amusing in some parts and touching in others.

Yet there’re also some solemn insights into alcoholism, slack parenting and emotionally manipulative relatives just as the authors seem to show, rather adamantly, that navigating this minefield would be enough conflict on its own without the false need to create any more storms in a teacup for the pairing in question. And *that* is something I can definitely appreciate.

If there’s a reason to single out this series for, it would probably be the unexpected slaps of humour and sass accompanied by the stinging realness of emotion that come my way each time I read about the antics that the characters get up to – testament to the stylish and polished writing of the dynamic duo of L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid.

five-stars

Sweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 13th February 2017
Sweet Victory by Gina L. MaxwellSweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell
Series: Fighting for Love #4
on February 27th 2017
Pages: 205
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three-stars

Confident but distrustful Sophie Caldwell needs help if she's going to save her family business. Her grandma left one rule for Sophie to maintain ownership from her uncle before she's thirty: get married. But how does she get her uncle off her ass when she's only twenty-seven and hasn't had a boyfriend in years?

Lean, cut, British-born MMA fighter Xander James has never lost a fight, and he's not about to start now. On the brink of a comeback to be a UFC champion, his landlord wants to take away his last chance by shutting down his gym. No. Hell no. Fortunately, his landlord's niece has a problem of her own. Time for a proposal she can't refuse.

It’s not the first marriage of convenience that has ever happened, nor will it be the last – and as it all begins, it’s a desperate situation that forces Xander and Sophie into one. Their careers and livelihoods are at stake and as it really is, a business proposition that will start and end clinically 6 months after the storm passes.

Feelings, however, as well as stirrings of mutual lust, get in the way and threaten to turn the fake marriage into a real one.

I did think that apart from the rocky beginning – Xander did come across as the womanising, bastard-type British MMA fighter who used Sophie’s face in place of the women he brought back – the story did get a little sweeter as Gina L. Maxwell tried to show how devoted both Xander and Sophie were to each other. (An English accent doesn’t – and shouldn’t – make it better, despite what it seems) But I found myself pretty much unsurprised by the progression of the story; it wasn’t unpredictable or unexpected in any way, but perhaps it isn’t meant to be at all since this imprint is really about the recycling of tropes and the numerous takes on them because readers simply like the variants.

There’s also a wrap up of all the couples in this series (though I don’t exactly remember them at all) but that’s probably an epilogue for those who do. ‘Sweet Victory’ can definitely work as a standalone though, and if the alpha MMA-type fighters are what you personally dig, then this is is something I’d recommend.

three-stars

The Goal by Elle Kennedy

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 14th December 2016
The Goal by Elle KennedyThe Goal by Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus, #4
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on September 26th 2016
Pages: 319
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two-stars

She’s good at achieving her goals…
College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.
But the game just got a whole lot more complicated
Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

Sabrina James and John Tucker is a pairing I didn’t think I’d come across, but then Elle Kennedy is adventurous that way and writes a believable relationship between a mismatched pair by the time their HEA rolls around.

Kennedy can always be counted on to give the down and dirty side of the college hookup culture, or rather, the subculture that’s more concerned with parties, casual relationships and the good life apart from studies. ‘The Goal’, like the rest of her series, revolves more around off-campus activities and the way jocks and the girls meander their way down to love after they start from lust and playing the field with a multitude of people. There is quite an overlap with book 2 and while I can’t exactly remember the details of it, it definitely works as a standalone.

While it did get a little shallow for my liking with my inability to really connect with the romantic leads at all, in truth, I was waiting for the holding pattern that these 2 college kids have gotten going, to fall apart. When it finally happened, I was gleeful to see Tucker’s and Sabrina’s ordered worlds collapsed with the introduction of a factor neither had thought about. Consequently, the last quarter of the book was the most interesting but also the most frustrating to read, as Sabrina alternated between self-recrimination and holding onto her pride about needing no one while Tucker reminisced fondly about staying with his old roommates with the constant stream of girls coming around. While I appreciated how the realism of their on-off, undefined relationship made for the long, slow journey to their happy end, it did drag a little too long for my liking.

Kennedy’s writing style is engaging albeit with very very crude college humour that hasn’t quite passed into wit yet and it’s probably a book for those who really appreciate all the tropes in New Adult sports romances: unapologetic, no holds barred types of hookups instead of relationships (thereby upping the body count as much as possible), with most of the characters going happily about bumping uglies with whomever they can whenever they feel like it, until something momentous happens to flip it all into blissful monogamy. Still, Kennedy nails the tone for this genre, filled with innuendoes that can be cringe-worthy and sometimes, amusing banter that goes nowhere, yet captures the mental state of this particular group of young adults who try to be grown up yet sometimes painfully fall short of it.

two-stars

Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 2nd December 2016
Hard Hitter by Sarina BowenHard Hitter by Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 336
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four-stars

As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good...

I had a good feeling about this one and it isn’t often I get smug to be about my own book choices.

Reading Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series is akin to entering the very glitzy world of sports, sponsorship and high-profile celebrity management—or at least Ms. Bowen’s perspective of the sport—and I find myself awed by the whole mechanism of it in here that I don’t find in other sports romances. It’s also very trendy in a way, and a perfect representation of how modern team sports have evolved: a billionaire owner whose money comes from some other source, a team of publicists and physical therapists on standby to support the lineup of players. My unfamiliarity with hockey obviously contributes to this wide-eyed wonder but thankfully, being a fan of the sport isn’t necessary; merely being a fan of human relationships is sufficient for anyone to enjoy this read. ‘Hard Hitter’ is told with good pacing, characterisation and a healthy dose of smexy times with great depth and all it takes is a difficult ex-boyfriend, a past drug issue and the hockey play-offs in waiting (should the fictional Bruisers win most of their games) for two key members in the team to have their lives upended and changed.

A series of events and a persistent injury have set Patrick O’Doul on a collision course with Ariana Bettini’s, but there’s more than just tender loving care in waiting for this pairing. O’Doul’s and Ari’s newfound connection is threatened by past decisions that blow up in their faces and make them question their place in the team, but learning to trust each other is perhaps one of the hardest things to do once again.

I found O’Doul very special somehow, memorable in that broody, tortured way, whose a heartbreaking, tragic backstory that made my own chest ache for him. Like Ari however, I found it difficult to see Patrick stuck in a role that was impossible to get out of simply because he grew into it—or perhaps that kind of open, accepted violence in hockey was hard to read about, let alone have a romantic lead doing it—and I was happy to see Ms. Bowen address this issue in a meta way, even if it is only a projection of a trend that will eventually lead Patrick away from being the hockey goon.

There’s a little of everything in ‘Hard Hitter’ that made it so enjoyable: the bit of suspense, the humour, the work drama and the cast of secondary characters (Hartley and Corey return!) who padded and enriched the story—which kept it all quite exciting up to the end.

The rest of the series can’t come fast enough.

four-stars
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